Water woes: Record water levels continue on the Great Lakes into December

Published: Dec. 6, 2019 at 1:02 PM EST
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(12/6/2019) - This time of year, water levels on the Great Lakes should be falling, and quickly.

Instead, water levels are only trickling downward, which means the lakes are once again tying record high levels. Now, for the month of December.

Since Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are connected through the Straits of Mackinac, they are technically one body of water and reported as such.

The water level on Lake Michigan-Huron is currently tied for its highest level during the month of December. It's a whopping 37 inches above average for the month, or more than three feet.

The fall and winter months pose more of a threat than experiencing record highs in the middle of summer. Michigan experiences more storms, which pack high winds and waves, this time of year.

The shorelines already have witnessed some extreme erosion and damage due to these storms. Unfortunately, more can be expected.

The most powerful storms this season have produced "storms surges" on the west side of the state that were over a foot. That means record high water levels are exacerbated by an extra foot or more during a storm.

Even worse, waves up to 15 feet came crashing to shore along with the storm surge.

This spells disaster for the shoreline areas. Aside from erosion there is damage to infrastructure by the lakes like roads, canals, jetties, etc.

In fact, the road around Mackinac Island was partially washed out due to high wind and waves recently. Homes in Caseville and on the west side of the state are in danger of sliding into the water as well.

How do the lake levels drop? Well, aside from the obvious answer of "it needs to stop raining," Michigan actually needs a warmer winter.

If the lakes freeze over again like last year, there will be much less evaporation. The ice will trap all the water currently in the lakes.

Water levels are forecast to fall a mere 2 inches on Lake Michigan-Huron over the next 30 days. If the state gets above average rain and snow, that drop could be even less, which would almost certainly set yet another record.

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